Much of the reaction to News International’s paywall figures announcement have been to try and crunch into the figures and find some greater truth. Given the opacity of the figures, this is understandable. Organgrinder and Paidcontent, are particularly worth looking up.
Getting to the bigger picture of News International’s ambitions, however, is something at which most commentators are fumbling.
James Murdoch’s avowed aim for some time now has been ‘getting closer to our customers’. An important aspect of this is to establish direct financial relationships with them – which is one of the appeals of online subscriptions. But don’t lose sight of the print subscribers. Most comment has dismissed the 100,000 of these who have activated their entitlement to go behind the paywall. For this group, the quality of the product bundle is obviously important, and access behind the paywall is could come to represent an increasingly pivotal part of this.
Far more significant, however, are the other groups that might be offered paywall access as part of bundles. Nearly 10 million people subscribe the BSkyB. There would almost certainly be regulatory issues were they to be offered newspaper subscriptions as part of their bundle – but with an increasing number of new televisions being sold equipped to access the internet, it is hard to believe that this possibility is not under consideration.
Were this to happen, the most significant impact might not be the revenue that it generated, but the effect that it had on other newspaper sales. Who would want to be running The Mirror, or The Telegraph, if Sky subscribers were being offered their rival publications as part of their tv bundle?